Some people should never play poker

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The Investigation begins

CHAPTER FIVE: The Investigation Begins

By the time all of the police vehicles had left the house, it was going on for half past three. Needless to say, nobody in the house had got much sleep.

The interviews with the people on the various levels of the house had taken quite some time, and it was noticeable that the people who had promised to be the most trouble were the least of Dillon’s problems.

James and Geoffrey had really very little to say about any of the happenings in the house prior to Amanda’s scream. They had not even heard the three girls coming in. They had both been together. Geoffrey was on the telephone to a colleague at the hospital who was worried about one of the young patients – a patient that Geoffrey had known since birth. He was not sure exactly what time this occurred, but the scream occurred almost at the exact moment that he put down the receiver. James was watching television. He recalled precisely – as James would – that it had been a documentary about the likely consequences of BREXIT on the property market. Before that – earlier – he had been looking through some papers relating to an ‘ungrateful’ tenant in another property that was seeking a reduction in rent due to the fact that the house had no double glazing. Geoffrey confirmed that this was the case – and added that ’James was doing his usual ‘Rachman’ act!’ (Geoffrey had winked at Dillon - which the latter found both embarrassing and inappropriate) Geoffrey laughed, shook his head and told them ‘he’s a teddy bear really, and always relents in the end, because he knows he should. He only does it to seem macho!’

Lucy found it hilarious that Dillon was finding it embarrassing, and she had to explain to him, when they had left, that the ‘wink’ related to the fact that he was being pretend-critical about his partner, rather than making an ‘inappropriate’ play for Dillon’s body! She accused him of having no sense of humour or irony! Lucy added salt into the wound, however, by telling him that he should be flattered if a handsome man winked at him.

Though Dillon was instinctively dubious about the worth of couples alibiing one another, he did think that they were unlikely contenders for his scrutiny. Short of it being a conspiracy between the two – and it seemed unlikely that there was a financial motive, or a sexual one, he thought, on all levels of probability, Geoffrey and James were off his hit list.

Moving up, to the second floor, he was inclined also to believe that events had played out much as Amanda Bamford had told them – corroborated by the other three women. Once again Alice was background.

So, what did he have? He had Geoffrey and James, off the list. Unless he subsequently learned differently. He had Amanda off the list, ditto. He had not considered Alice at all, except as corroboration of the scream, the fact that she was first arrival (after the young women) on the scene, and was then, almost immediately, side-lined by James, who took charge. The fact that she neither showed any resentment of this, and the fact that she immediately played ‘mother hen’ to the distraught young women, made her merely a very nice, very ordinary housewife. She was apparently unworthy of even going on the list at all. Dillon thought he was an intuitive – and experienced – detective. He wouldn’t claim ‘best in the field’ but he would claim somewhere pretty high up the clear-up chain, so it was a really big omission and misjudgement on his part that he did not look past her motherly, ever-busy, apparently transparent self. There were things that Alice knew – that she made it her business to know - which might well have been very helpful to him. She never proffered information, nor divulged her sources to anybody. Not unless it was in her own best interests. So far nothing fell into that category.

So… the crucial floor, as far as Dillon could see, was the ground floor. They would have to check that Georgia Taddei was at that book do – which seemed very likely since it was for her book, and she could hardly nip away and not be missed.

Neil. Now naturally the evidence said that he was guilty because he had disappeared. And the blood. Though the blood might easily be his own given that Lucy thought he had taken a beating. The hair dye on the towels, and in the sink … he may just have fancied a change. None of that was real grounds for anything other than keeping him on the ‘list’. Neither, although it was odd behaviour – was the fact that he had ignored the scream. He could have been in the middle of dying his hair. Embarrassment? A scream could have been interpreted as larking about … in itself, none of what they had was sufficient. But they did need to know where the hell he had gone and why he thought it a good time to go.

Dillon was beginning, though, to think that there was a connection between the original attack on Francesca Taddei and the beating that Neil seemed to have taken. Was it fluke that one ended tragically in death and the other survived? It was possible. Neil was stronger, better able to fight back perhaps. But what was the connection? Was he trying to protect her? Did he just make himself scarce and leave her to it? It had to be remembered that he not only survived a fatal attack but survived sufficiently uninjured to dye his hair to change his appearance, gather up what he needed and take off. Chance or design?

Dillon did think they were both ‘victims’ of the same assailant. Neil was just lucky, or Francesca was unlucky. He conjectured that the plan was never to kill. The plan had got out of hand. BUT the plan having got out of hand, Neil may well feel that they would need to tidy up. He has run because he knows too much. He knows who the murderer is. They cannot leave him alive. Dillon thought it was as good a hypothesis as any. He was not fixated on it but was comfortable with it for the time being. He thought he was happy with the interpretation that the murder of Francesca Taddei was ‘unintentional’, but he had a niggle which he just could not put to rest. That niggle related to two things: first, what did Neil and Francesca Taddei have in common. Why them? Wrong place, wrong time? Or was there more to it? And, second, the name. There were two Taddei women in the house. Was that at all relevant?

So Dillon’s thinking – at least for the time being – was that Bamford was on the run, not from them, but from someone else. Which begged the question, Who?

The next day, one of the missing pieces returned home: Gio Scarletti had apparently been visiting his wife’s cousin in Bedford, overnight, and had come back oblivious of the excitement and tragedy that had taken place in his absence. Dillon, would later – because he was suspicious like that – wonder what wife would not ring her husband – particularly just visiting a relative – to tell him about the events in the house. It was not a sin, or indiscretion in itself, it was just not normal – usual – behaviour.

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